Big Ten Championship: Michigan 42, Iowa 3

Big Ten Championship: Michigan 42, Iowa 3

December 5, 2021
Donovan Edwards (#7) and Roman Wilson (#14) (image via USA Today)

BIG TEN CHAMPS!!! A lot of people doubted this Michigan team – including yours truly – but they’re right where almost everyone wishes they could be. They beat the brakes off Ohio State and then the Big Ten West opponent, and now they’re headed to the playoffs. I thought they would be 8-4, so I certainly didn’t think they would be 12-1 and in this spot, but I also never lost faith in Jim Harbaugh’s ability to coach. That 2-4 season in 2020 made a lot of people forget that this guy turned around two other college programs, returned the 49ers to the Super Bowl, and made a 5-7 team into a 10-3 team immediately upon arriving in Michigan. He now averages 9.8 wins per season at Michigan if you give him a full year.

Hit the jump for more.

I love that Michigan has some juice now. It’s really tough to be successful on offense if you don’t have something to hang your hat on. When Michigan can’t run or pass the ball consistently, defenses don’t overplay certain things. Michigan is finally to the point on offense where their runs and swing passes are making people overplay those things, which has opened up double passes, flea flickers, etc. Michigan got a 75-yard touchdown off a double pass that ended up in Roman Wilson’s hands, and that was set up by Michigan running orbit/swing motion and throwing backward passes to Donovan Edwards, A.J. Henning, Roman Wilson, etc. After Michigan ran certain motions with Edwards and Wilson in the first quarter, you could tell they were setting up the double pass. Michigan also hit a flea flicker to Erick All that was set up by the constant H-back motions and the respect for Hassan Haskins in the run game.

The defense was excellent. I thought Iowa might have found a little something early in the game when they were attacking the middle of the field, which Michigan State did earlier in the year. However, the Hawkeyes just couldn’t sustain it. The offensive line couldn’t hold up to the pass rush, and quarterback Spencer Petras just isn’t good enough to make Michigan pay for an entire game. Iowa did a good job early of bootlegging and challenging Michigan’s aggressiveness off the edge, but once the coaches made an adjustment and told the edge guys to play the bootleg, Iowa’s best play was defeated. I thought Jaylen Harrell (4 tackles, 1 tackle for loss) played a solid game, and maybe that’s why the coaches put him in there, to play that bootleg. Aidan Hutchinson also took a ton of attention, and he notched a sack despite Iowa trying to chip him with a running back.

Attacking Iowa’s edges is the thing to do. I thought Michigan did a great job of game planning to defeat Iowa. As ballyhooed as Michigan’s offensive line is, they weren’t going to be able to consistently run up the middle on the Hawkeyes. So Michigan attacked the edges of their 2-high defense. If you can do that successfully, you can make Iowa try to do something different and go with a 1-high look, and that’s not what they’re most comfortable doing. The swing passes, the end around to A.J. Henning, the 67-yard run by Blake Corum, the double pass, etc. were all ways of attacking Iowa’s edges and forcing defensive backs to come up and tackle. Iowa’s defensive backs are capable tacklers, but they’re 200-pounders who don’t major in it, rather 240 lb. inside linebackers who do.

Donovan Edwards can throw the ball? Edwards threw a beautiful 75-yard touchdown pass to Roman Wilson (it went about 45 yards in the air), and some people were surprised. Edwards was a do-everything high school player who ran the ball, caught the ball, and threw the ball some from the “Wildcat” spot at West Bloomfield High School. Even though he’s not a great runner at this point (3 carries, 1 yard, 0.3 yards/carry, 1 TD), he can do other things to help the team. With Michigan bringing in X factors like Edwards and J.J. McCarthy, it has really opened up Michigan’s offense with some unpredictability.

Blake Corum’s 67-yard run. I have to admit that I was not too happy when I saw Corum look for that cutback on his 67-yarder, because I thought he was going to get tripped up and/or be unable to get up to full speed, considering his recent ankle injury. Boy, was I wrong. He makes some ridiculous cuts, and then his ability to tiptoe down the sideline was impressive, especially with McCarthy sprinting from Corum’s blindside downfield to try to throw a block. That was just a fantastic, exciting play for all involved.

What happens next? I don’t want to see Georgia and Alabama play again in the national championship. They did it a few years ago, and it was boring. They played yesterday, and it was an exciting single game . . . but seeing it again would be boring. The College Football Playoff committee needs to realize that the whole country does not want to see two SEC teams facing off in the national championship again. I don’t really care where Michigan is seeded (though it should be #1 or #2, not #3 like stupid Joey Galloway said), but if I had to pick, I would say:

  1. Michigan
  2. Alabama
  3. Georgia
  4. Cincinnati

My reason for putting Michigan #1 is that their only loss came against #11 Michigan State, while Alabama’s loss came against #24 Texas A&M. Sure, Alabama beat #1 Georgia, but Michigan beat then #2 Ohio State (which since dropped down to #7). Georgia actually has the best loss, but they just lost yesterday, so you can’t realistically keep them ranked above the team that beat them.

I’m happy for Jim Harbaugh. I’m happy for everyone involved in Michigan’s football program, but Jim Harbaugh represents a lot of great things about the university. He stresses academics and competing to be the best. He gives back to the community – such as his donation of his post-season bonuses to other members of the athletic department – and he prioritizes the student athletes. And he does all this while being vilified by members of the media and other football coaches. And I know some people don’t like his post-game interviews, but I think he does a great job of deflecting the spotlight toward the players and the school rather than keeping the focus on himself.

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